By Katie Rosenbrock
The Active Times
Did you know that owning a pet can reduce your risk for heart disease? At least that's what the American Heart Association says. One study revealed that dog owners, in particular, are 54 percent more likely to reach the CDC's weekly recommended amounts of exercise and observational evidence has shown that people who own pets are, generally speaking, just happier human beings. So owning a dog might make you more inclined toward health and fitness, but what about man's best friend himself?
The fittest dogs in the world come in all shapes and sizes. Some are small and swift, while others are big and brawny. Human measures of fitness include athletic ability, strength, agility and endurance, and it's pretty much the same for dogs. But according to American Kennel Club spokesperson Lisa Peterson, comparing one breed to another is akin to comparing apples to oranges.
"Each of the 180 AKC recognized breeds has a standard developed by the Parent Club (National Breed Club), which details the individual requirements to determine athleticism and fitness by breed," says Peterson. "So a fit Cavalier King Charles Spaniel would be different than a fit Elkhound, for example."
But like the kid who crushed the mile run in middle-school gym class, some pooches are more apt toward athleticism. “Certain breeds just have a more natural athletic ability because of what they were originally bred to do,” says Victoria Swanson, a professional dog trainer from Grand Rapids, Michigan. For example, working breeds like the Siberian Husky love to exercise and perform for their owners.
So, which canines were bred for speed, strength and stamina? We compared everything from running ability and endurance, to speed, strength and agility to bring you our list of the fittest dog breeds in the world.
If the Siberian Husky is the marathon runner of dogs, then the Chesapeake Bay Retriever is the Olympic swimmer. Originally bred along the coast of -- you guessed it -- The Chesapeake Bay for hunting waterfowl, this brawny breed's swimming abilities are on par with, say, Michael Phelps. The AKC also considers it an exceptionally happy breed. Must be all those exercise endorphins ...
Also a part of the AKC’s official most active dog breeds list, the Dalmatian is an activity-loving, high-energy hound. One of its early occupations was to run ahead of horse-drawn firefighting carriages to clear a path and lead the horses to the fire. Keeping pace with an animal more than twice your size sounds like no easy feat, so this is one pretty fit puppy.
You know how you start to feel antsy and irritable if you don’t get your exercise in? The German Shorthaired Pointer feels your pain. This type of dog is a natural athlete and requires plenty of daily exercise. The American Kennel Club says the GSP loves to run and swim, making it a great companion for sporty types and fit families.
This extremely energetic breed, which is actually not recognized by the American Kennel Club, was originally bred for hunting. In other words, they can run fast and like to chase things. Despite a small stature, it’s been reported that a Jack Russell Terrier will dare to take on adversaries twice its size or bigger. Say what you will, but we’d rather not mess with any pooch that’s fast, strong and unafraid. “Don't discount smaller breeds. [They] don't lack what the bigger breeds offer," says Swanson, "they just have it in a smaller version.”
It's only fitting that you'd find a dog originally bred to hunt lions among the fittest breeds in the world. Quite commonly regarded as on of the most muscular and athletic dogs, the Rhodesian Ridgeback has guns and isn't afraid to use 'em. Don't equate them to the aggro muscleheads at your gym, though. According to the AKC, they’re just as cuddly as they are strong.
Another breed that was originally bred for hunting, the Weimaraner has the need for speed. In addition to its swift nature, this pup’s most lauded athletic abilities include endurance, agility and fearlessness. It is included in Runner's World's list of best endurance-running dogs and is sometimes referred to as the "grey ghost," because of its unique coat coloring.
This breed also falls into the category of smaller-statured breeds that shouldn't be judged by their size. And unless you like losing, don't try to challenge this pooch to a race (you know, if racing canines happens to be a hobby of yours). According to the American Kennel Club, a Whippet can run as fast as 35mph, making it the fastest domesticated animal in its weight class (larger greyhounds are a bit faster).
For the complete list of Fittest Dogs Breeds In The World, go to TheActiveTimes.com.
More From The Actives Times:
-- 12 Fun New Ways to Exercise with Your Dog
-- Cool and Cute Outdoor Gear for Your Dog
-- 12 Worthless Fitness Tips You Probably Follow
-- The Best Beasts in Africa: A Guides Favorite Place
'72 Chevy Nova Reborn As Grill